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Transformers: The Game

Score: 72%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Free-Roaming

Graphics & Sound:

As a Transformers fan, my feelings have been mixed about the upcoming movie. I like the idea, but I'm still not completely sold on it. As a gamer, however, I've been unusually excited about the tie-in games. I loved Melbourne House's PS2 Transformers and was excited to see what Traveller's Tales would do. The experience is mixed; the fun of playing as a giant transforming robot is there, though the experience is marred by poor gameplay decisions and wild swings in difficulty.

If anything, Transformers: The Game looks fantastic. The in-game characters use the same modeling data as the characters from the movie, so the transformation you see each time you press the button is what you see on-screen. Animations are smooth and even show off a few little details, like the blades on Blackout's back flexing when he jumps. Small details even show up while in vehicle mode; while in vehicle mode, weapons will pop out of your car.

The open-ended levels, which serve a hubs to missions, are small when compared to what we typically think of a open-ended, but still offer opportunities for play. Everything in the level can be destroyed or damaged in some way, even the pavement which cracks when your robot lands on it. Buildings crumble and burn, trees are uprooted... if you are feeling particularly destructive, you can easily level the entire level into smoking ruins. Damage is persistent, but only to a point. Some missions will reset the damage while others will keep it - it is really just a crapshoot.

While the movie gained momentum with fans when Peter Cullen, the original Optimus Prime, signed on, the game outdoes it by also including Frank Welker, the original Megatron. Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox also reprise their roles while Keith David lends his voice to Barricade. Overall the voicework is great, though the constant reminders to move to the next mission are annoying.

Music fits and adds just the right amount of weight to the game, as do the sound effects.


Transformers: The Game features two campaigns, Autobot and Decepticon. Both tie into the movie's plot, the search for an artifact called the AllSpark, though the Decepticon plot revises a few things.

Gameplay takes place in five open-ended worlds, each containing four to five story-based missions. Missions usually involve racing around an area and causing damage, though you will also face off against other Transformers. Some of the "search and destroy" mission types also contain a scavenger hunt component. Missions are not that varied or original, though some of the better planned ones can be fun. Unfortunately, good planning is not something that is consistent across all missions.

Many times, the driving idea behind missions are as old as the Transformers license, "Throw a bunch of difficult enemies at the player and see what happens." This creates situations where Ironhide is one of the most frustrating bosses in the game, while Megatron is a pushover. As a result, the game feels unbalanced and poorly designed.

Boss battles are some of the longer missions, though most of the length is generated through artificial means. Most will bug out half-way through the fight and force you to chase them down; others will call in large groups of allies to help them. Though drones are easy to defeat, some, like the tow truck, have to be defeated in special ways, giving you one more thing to worry about. Police and army units will also find their way into the area and make things difficult for you.

If you want to take a break from the story, you can collect energon cubes hidden throughout each world. For every 20 you discover, a new challenge mission is unlocked. Challenges include everything from checkpoint races to scavenger and survival missions. Cost does not seem to play too great a role in what the challenge entails since I was able to easily clear some of the more expensive challenges while struggling with cheaper ones.

Skill points are rewards for performing the same specific set of five tasks in each mission. These include maxing out your vehicle's speed, skidding and throwing objects a certain distance. Most can easily be earned, though some, like the Hero/ Evil points, require some planning and luck.

The payoff for completing everything in the game is unlockable content. You can unlock trailers, movie stills and other artwork. Generation One designed characters are also available to unlock, though the content sounds cooler than it really is.


If Transformers: The Game has any consistent design points, they probably read, "Time Limits make everything more challenging," "Everything works better in three's" and, "Long, drawn out boss fights = Fun." In addition to weapons being outright useless in battle (which seems to be a carryover from the cartoon series), missions are difficult only because of cheap gameplay tricks.

I could probably count on my hands how many missions don't feature some sort of time limit, stated or otherwise. Most of the limits are actually something you can work through and do add a certain level of pressure that can be fun when used correctly.

What cannot be simply "worked through" are boss fights, which can be absurdly hard. Weapons are useless when fighting bosses, so you have to rely on melee attacks - a limit that does not affect bosses. When going in for attacks, bosses are extremely fond of using their shields, which are activated only when the situation calls for it. You have shields too, though they do not work nearly as well, and if they do not let some damage through, you are at least sent flying during some encounters.

Again, most, if not all of the difficulty comes from archaic mission designs. It adds unneeded frustration and kills any fun the player may be having.

Game Mechanics:

I would imagine coming up with Transformers' control scheme was a difficult undertaking. Not only does it require mapping out controls for robots, but for various vehicle types as well, all while keeping a sense of unity that will not completely throw the player. To this end, the game is a success. It takes a little adjusting early on, though within a couple of missions they can easily be picked up.

The setup behind driving controls is good, at least if you have ever played an action game that required you to drive some sort of vehicle. Handling, on the other hand, is a pain. Regardless of what your character turns into, vehicles lack any sense of weight or physics consistency. One time you will slide through a corner, while at another, you may drift like a pro. You can send just about anything skidding across the ground with the slightest bump. Sometimes it is humorous, other times it makes actions more difficult than they need to be. You can, and probably will, end up kicking an object around a few times before picking it up, leaving you open for attack. Most of the time you can get away without having to throw objects, though when facing enemies that require a thrown attack, it adds unneeded frustration.

Wonky physics pop up in other areas as well. Though you can play as Starscream and Blackout, you do not have to be either to rack up the sky miles. Many enemy attacks knock you back and will send you flying all over the map. Sometimes hits will come in just the right timing that you can bounce around the area for about a minute, taking all sorts of damage and possibly risking a major headache from watching the camera jump around as it tries to adjust itself.

Going into Transformers, my only real expectations were that I would be able to transform a few times and experience the thrill of being a giant robot in the city. In those respects, the game does deliver; missions may be drawn-out and generic, but when played from the perspective of a 3-story transforming robot, they are cool. What I wasn't expecting wee the numerous difficulty spikes and poor design decisions - at least when it comes to fighting bosses.

Though I would love to at least recommend Transformers: The Game to the series' fans, the difficulty and balance issues could easily make some regret their purchase. Transformers is a good game, though one that would probably enjoyed more as a rental.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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